December Means; Nutcracker, Nasty Bills, and New York…

The fav music, a must to singalong la la la la etc.,
The Snowflakes…my fav music, a must to singalong with…la la la la la etc.,

I was very excited to go to Pescara last Thursday 12th December and see a live streaming of the Royal Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. A great way to get into the Christmas spirit. It was a wonderful experience and I loved the way you could hear the audience taking their seats in the auditorium of the Royal Opera House and the orchestra tuning up – what a buzz it gave me! Sadly the cinema in Pescara was virtually empty with only about twenty seats taken up. I don’t understand why that should be except that maybe the Italians are not that enamoured of the Royal Ballet or perhaps it is just not advertised enough locally. I wonder if they attend the opera productions, which are also live streamed once a month at this time of year.

My two friends and I clapped heartily, soaked up the beautiful dancing, costumes, scenery and music, it was magical. I danced out of the cinema at the end truly inspired, I probably looked a right idiot but I didn’t care. I think I’m going to pop down again in January and catch Giselle, it’s just over two and a half hours round trip, but worth it, I do love the ballet.

It was back to reality with a bump on Friday morning when we residents of Petritoli received our rifiuti,  rubbish disposal bills. I couldn’t get to the PO on Friday as I had to collect paperwork for two friends who are in the UK but the bills had to be paid by Monday, (today) not much notice then! If you don’t complete the payment on time then there’s a fine.

Poste Italiane...Happy Faces (NOT)
Poste Italiane…Happy Faces (NOT)

So, off I trek on Saturday morning to the post office with all three lots of paperwork . Surprise, surprise the other 1500 residents are also trying to pay. So the place was rammed to the gunnels. Ridiculous. Everyone mumbling, grumbling, no proper queue, no ticket to take for a turn a typical Italian experience which I’m normally happy with because I love living here and so accept that this is the way things are. However, I tried to be patient and wait but I gave up after an hour and decided to return on Monday

Roman Soldiers...we had no  javelins in the PO though...thank goodness!!
Roman Soldiers…we had no javelins in the Post Office though…thank goodness!!

I went back this morning and it was same thing a ton of people standing very close together like phalanx of Roman soldiers but with no possibility of advancement within the foreseeable future. I waited for twenty minutes then went AWOL to do some other chores and return at 1pm. The post office closes at 1.30 and the Italians all have lunch between 12.30pm and 3.30pm so I thought I pm would be safe bet. Yeah! It was a little less crowded but difficult to keep my place in the heaving throng of locals all trying to sneak in front. I had been waiting for a while when it was explained to me by a helpful neighbour that if I was paying by Bancomat card then I had to go ‘into the office with the director’, she spoke confidentially and I was reminded of Les Dawson. Anyway, I joined the other slightly shorter but equally haphazard queue outside the Postmaster’s office.

This queue moved very, very slowly, one person every 10 minutes as opposed to one person every five minutes. I tried to rejoin the first queue but, ‘No signora, devi attendere la!’ No, madam you must wait there! So patience. Patience, really is a bloody virtue and thank goodness I have plenty of it. Eventually I entered the exclusive office with the ‘director’ who to me, looked about 17 years old and just out of school, his wispy beard telling all. I had torn off the ‘tear off’ slip, as I thought I was supposed to but, alas, ‘No signora, non dovresti avuto fatto quello’ you should not have done that…I was duly told off. I had done it with all three bills! Ah well, he fiddled about and tried to put the two halves of the paper onto another plain sheet and push it through his machine. It took a bit of time, probably 15 minutes in total. I kept saying, ‘mi dispiace’ I’m sorry. He raised his eyebrows, sighed heavily and looked at me the way young people look at old people sometimes. Despairingly. Thank goodness I was in the room with the ‘Director’ and this little scenario didn’t take place in front of all those other people waiting their turn. Imagine how I might have felt then! Job done, I scurried quickly through the main PO hoping not to be seen and out into the fresh air, free at last!

Olivespastavino is off to New York on Thursday for Christmas, everyone is sooo Jealous. I’m looking forward to going but not looking forward to the journey. I can’t wait to see family, especially my lovely grand daughter 8 months old now! I’ll be blogging from the Big Apple….can’t wait to visit Sahadi’s and get some of those double choc malt balls…yum yum.

Double Choc Malt Balls..YUMMY!
Double Choc Malt Balls..YUMMY!

Eating Out in Brooklyn


‘You can eat out every day in Brooklyn for a year and still have plenty of places left to go…  some of the best restaurants in New York are here.’ that’s what one taxi driver told me. During my stay in Park Slope I did my best to try as many of the restaurants as I could. It’s common to eat out and popular to have a take-out. My daughter told me that home cooking is not a priority in New York.

This blog isn’t about reviewing restaurants but I just wanted to give you a little taste (excuse the pun) of my gastronomic experiences. I have included links to some of the cafés, bars and restaurants I enjoyed.

Roasted Carrot Salad
Roasted Carrot Salad

I had some wonderful pasta with rocket pesto, fresh tomatoes and zucchini at Rucola, a fabulous Italian restaurant on the corner of Dean Street and Bond, to start we had roasted carrot salad, unusual and delizioso (delicious obvs). Slow cooked barbecue pork is popular on many of the menus, often served in a sandwich and of course all sandwiches come with fries, and the fries are fantastic, there are mostly roughly cut and thin, perhaps a little heavy on the salt but I don’t mind that. Salads are abundant and you can mostly get a base variety of lettuce and then add what you like to the top, Building on Bond made a mean salad, Bob’s Cob being one of them.

Of course, hamburgers are plentiful and there are $5 hot-dog stands on every corner of Manhattan. Food from street vendors is popular and people pick up a pretzel or a doughnut on their way to work. Speaking of doughnuts I had them twice for breakfast, best  I’ve ever tasted, honestly…

Delicious caramelized onion soup at Café Colette in Williamsburg, an area of Brooklyn. This café was buzzing one Monday lunchtime. Alchemy bar and restaurant in Park Slope Brooklyn was just round the corner from our house so a favourite haunt with the family. Roast chicken was a popular choice for us but also the mussels went down pretty well!

It was wonderful to stroll down 5th avenue Brooklyn, (not to be confused with 5th Avenue Manhattan) and stop at one of several coffee shops to choose a coffee from the enormous list of options. Straight coffee, soya latte, cappuccino, mocha, espresso, skinny latte, chai latte, etc., and of course everything comes in small, regular or large AND you can have any of them iced! Best to make up your mind before you get to the shop then you don’t stand staring at the menu boards for ages. Of course, coffee must be accompanied by a little something; croissant, muffin, Danish, cookie, turnover…oh it goes on and on and so have the pounds! Mercifully, as I also did a lot of walking whilst staying in America I have managed not to pile on too much weight.

One more little point…Before leaving I did have to pay a visit to the amazing deli, Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue to purchase a few double choc malt balls to bring back to Italy…didn’t buy nearly enough though…
choc balls

Next time I visit NYC, first thing on my list is a trip to the famous deli Dean & Deluca’s in Manhattan …I just don’t know how I managed to miss it this time round. Guess I was a little busy becoming a Nonna (Grandmother) and that truly was the best experience for me during my stay.

Book for a menu..great idea
Book for a menu..great idea
Coffee and Pecan Bun ...yum!
Coffee and Pecan Bun …yum!
Cafe Colette
Cafe Colette

Brooklyn New York


Olivespastavino is on holiday. I’m taking a break, how lucky am I? I’m in New York for three weeks, blogging from the other side of the Atlantic, how cool is that?
I was able to fly direct from Rome to JFK with Alitalia and the experience wasn’t too bad. I have to admit that I was a little concerned, knowing that Alitalia have been in a bit of financial trouble in the last few years but generally it was all good. The aeroplane was modern and comfortable, the food was passable and the crew, although not falling over themselves to help, were polite. I was in the happy situation of having three seats to myself even though the plane was pretty full.

The weather here was not kind to me on arrival, windy, wet, misty and miserable, but I’ve been promised a good weekend. As I’m staying with family the initial impact of a cold miserable day in Brooklyn wasn’t so bad. Seeing my daughter and son-in-law for the first time in several months was far more important to me.

No sightseeing has been possible yet but we’ve been out to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Close to the river and tantalisingly within reach of Manhattan, sadly the mist took away the expected view of the city but the excitement and buzz of this magnificent place was tangible. Cobbled streets by the waterfront, conjure up images of an old New York I have only seen in films. We took coffee in West Elm Market, a fabulous home and garden shop full of items created from recycled materials. I loved everything.  I wanted to buy it all! Thankfully the size of my purse and my suitcase restricted me from being over indulgent in this respect so I had to be satisfied with a box of matches. Strange but practical purchase. Must be something to do with jet lag.

There is a big Italian influence in New York, I’ve been here for less than two days but already I can sense it in the coffee shops, the streets and the ice-cream! I’m staying in Brooklyn and Little Italy is a thirty-minute train ride from here so I’m planning a visit soon, unless the imminent arrival of my first grandchild interferes with arrangements!

Saturday morning. Brooklyn NYC 13th April 2013.